Saturday, January 28, 2006

More on Simultaneous Release and Bubble

Tonight we'll finish what we were talking about yesterday--an experiment with the simultaneous release of films in theatres, on DVD and on cable television.

To recap: Director Steven Soderbergh's latest film, "Bubble," opened yesterday in thirty-four theatres around the country at the same time it was released on HD Net television. Next Tuesday, the DVD will also be released.

This simultaneous release--also called day-and-date release--is making theatre owners crazy. With box office receipts already down, they are terrified of any initiatives that will encourage theatre-goers to stay home and watch the DVD or cable television.

According to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, "[a]lthough Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Bob Iger and Time Warner's Dick Parsons have publicly suggested that the simultaneous release of films across multiple formats is inevitable, their own movie studio chiefs are cautioning that preserving the communal moviegoing experience is vital not just to the culture but to the bottom line."

The traditional business model has a film being released in a chronological string with several months between each step: 1) in domestic theatres, 2) in overseas theatres, 3) on DVD, 4) on cable television and 5) on network television.

The LA Times article says, "[t]those who argue to toss out this traditional approach believe it may be more lucrative to give consumers the choice of seeing movies however, whenever and wherever they want. Because at least half a film's revenue today comes from DVD sales, executives ask, why not make discs available at a premium price right away? I saw Mark Cuban (co-owner of the Landmark Theatres where "Bubble" is currently playing) on television last night chortling about what will happen when a group of small children walk out of a blockbuster kid's film (think "Lion King") and see the DVD on sale in the lobby. How many of those DVDs at premium prices do you think the theatre could sell? In ways like this, he sees the theatres earning back some of the dollars they will lose on lower ticket sales.

M. Night Shyamalan (director of "The Sixth Sense" and "The Village") recently announced he would rather give up filmmaking rather than see his films debut on television screens. Mark Cuban shot back, "He should stop making movies then." (LA Times)

Theatre owners are not going to go down without a fight. John Fithian, president of the National Association of Theater Owners, said that simultaneous release is "the biggest threat to the viability of the cinema industry today. (USA Today)

"Bubble" is the first of six films to be released as a part of a deal between Steven Soderbergh, Mark Cuban and his partner, Todd Wagner. All six will be released simultaneously in theatres and on HD Net television, followed by the DVD release a few days later.

Stay tuned. There is sure to be more on this subject in the near future.

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